Catholic Customs and Traditions
[This guest post was submitted by regular TAC commenter "Pinky" and is particularly timely as we near Christmas.]
“If virtue is a habit, perhaps it’s time to form some more habits around denial of appetite.” – DarwinCatholic
It has always been the practice of the Church to prepare for feast days with prayer and fasting. The opportunity to take part in one of the Church’s oldest traditions is approaching on the 15th, 16th, and 18th of December this year, the tradition of Ember days.
Ember days likely came into being in the years when the Catholic Church was expanding into pagan lands and Christianizing their rituals, although some have dated them back to the time of the Apostles. Further confusing the origin of the practice is the unknown derivation of the word “ember” itself: possibly from the Latin word tempor (time) or the Celtic word ymbren (seasonal cycle).
On the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of four weeks spaced throughout the year, the faithful have been encouraged to prayer, fasting, and partial abstinence (meat was allowed during the one meal except on Fridays or during Lent). These Ember weeks were standardized in 1095 to begin on the Wednesday following the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross (Sept.14) , the Feast of Saint Lucy (Dec.13), Ash Wednesday, and Pentecost. Ember Saturdays are popular days for ordinations. Continue reading
What has been an open secret is now backed by empirical evidence:
The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.*
As I have been reading through the website of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) I came across this nugget of information [Emphases Mine]:
Myth #4: Women entering religious life want to wear habits.Fact: Both men and women seem to be drawn to habited communities. About two thirds of the newer members say they belong to a religious institute that wears a habit. Among those that responded affirmatively, a little more than half indicate that the habit is required in all or most circumstances.
Interestingly, almost half of the men who belong to an institute that does not wear a habit say they would wear it if it were an option [and those that don't wear habits are obviously being disobedient and committing a mortal sin], compared to nearly a quarter of the women respondents.
Ann Carey of The Catholic World Report wrote that the study found several “best practices”:
- Involving membership and leadership in concerted vocation promotion efforts.
- Having a full-time vocation director.
- Using new media like the Internet.
- Offering discernment or “come-and-see” opportunities for potential members.
- Exposing young people to the idea of religious life from grade school through young adulthood.
What stuck out and confirmed what I’ve always thought in attracting people to religious vocations, as well as bringing in converts to the Catholic faith is:
“the example of members and the characteristics of the institute…have the most influence on the decision to enter a particular institute.”
As Saint John said in his epistle:
Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (1 Jn 2:15-17)
The rest of this posting will be an excerpt of Ann Carey‘s article on The Catholic World Report where she sights some examples of booming traditional religious orders:
I read a comment a few weeks ago on GetReligion.org attempting to explain why John Paul Stevens was the last Protestant in the U.S. Supreme Court which simply said that Catholics and Jews have a tradition of being immersed in law (Canon Law and Halakha respectively for Catholics and Jews as an example).
This struck me as interesting because at first glance it kind of makes sense.
Of course there is much more to why the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, 6 Catholics, 2 Jews, and an Episcopalian, is as it is.
But I thought it was an interesting enough topic to dive into.
Lisa Wangsness of the Boston Globe chimes in with her two cents worth [emphases mine]:
Evangelical Protestants have been slow to embrace, or to feel welcomed by, the elite law schools like Harvard and Yale that have become a veritable requirement for Supreme Court nominees. One reason for this, some scholars say, is because of an anti-intellectual strain within evangelicalism.
As Ronald Reagan would say, there you go again, pushing the liberal theory that Christians are stupid (at least Evangelical Protestants).
Lets get beyond these stereotypes done by liberals to Christians.